Ten European nations competing at the 2022 World Cup this winter in Qatar, including England, have responded to Fifa’s message to focus on football over politics by insisting “human rights are universal and they apply everywhere.”
England’s FA, along with the likes of Wales, Portugal, Sweden and Germany, released a joint statement pledging to ensure the game’s governing body followed through on promises to provide recompense to migrant workers, while also reiterating that football had to use its standing to drive improvements throughout the world.
Earlier this week, Fifa wrote to all involved nations amid rising criticism and perceived hostility toward the hosts, saying “let’s now focus on the football” and asking the 32 federations to “not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists”.
Those requests have been rejected by the ten European nations though, who point out that while improvements have been made by Qatar with their human rights record, much work still lies ahead and noted that the “security and inclusion” of LGBTQ+ fans in particular was an element needing highlighting ahead of the finals.
The statement in full read:
“With the Fifa World Cup Qatar beginning shortly, we would like to react to the latest developments and public discussions related to challenges in the host country off the pitch before the sport shall soon take centre stage.
“We acknowledge, and welcome, as we have done in the past, that significant progress has been made by Qatar, particularly with regards to the rights of migrant workers, with the impact of legislative changes demonstrated in the International Labour Organisation’s recent reports.
“We welcome the assurances given by the Qatari Government and by Fifa regarding the safety, security and inclusion of all fans who travel to the World Cup, including LGBTQ+ fans.
“We also recognise that every country has issues and challenges and we agree with Fifa that diversity is a strength.
“However, embracing diversity and tolerance also means supporting human rights. Human rights are universal and they apply everywhere.
“We will continue to support the momentum for positive, progressive change and continue to advocate for a conclusive outcome and update on the two key outstanding issues we have been discussing with Fifa for a long time.
“Fifa has repeatedly committed to deliver concrete answers on these issues - the compensation fund for migrant workers, and the concept of a migrant workers centre to be created in Doha - and we will continue to press for these to be delivered.
“We believe in the power of football to make further positive and credible contributions to progressive sustainable change in the world.
“[Signed,] The Football Associations of: Belgium, Peter Bossaert; Denmark, Jakob Jensen; England, Mark Bullingham; Germany, Heike Ullrich; The Netherlands, Gijs de Jong; Norway, Lise Klaveness; Portugal, Teresa Romão; Sweden, Håkan Sjöstrand; Switzerland, Dominique Blanc; Wales, Noel Mooney.”
Qatar are not the only nation facing opposition, with a women’s rights group having petitioned Fifa to kick Iran out of the World Cup over their oppression and treatment of females in the country.